Those seeking another music festival out in the desert that’s worth the short road trip and doesn’t cater to Instagram celebrities have another option. No, not Stagecoach—though if country music is your thing, by all means. For those with more psychedelic tastes, however, there’s Desert Daze. Originally a smaller festival catered toward wandering weirdos seeking out a transcendent desert concert experience (and I say this lovingly—nothing but affection for my weirdos), Desert Daze continues to grow every year as an alternative to the increasingly more mainstream Coachella.
This Friday, October 11, kicks off three days of performances at Moreno Beach, Lake Perris, from one of its strongest lineups of artists in recent memory. I imagine there will be a lot of people from San Diego making the trek out to join in the festivities, so here are 10 artists to see while you’re there.
The Flaming Lips (Friday): There are arguments to be made about which album by the Flaming Lips is their best, but the only correct answer is 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. For its 20th anniversary, the band will play the album in its entirety, revisiting its psychedelic and heartbreaking anthems, most likely with bubbles and confetti and costumes and other absurd shenanigans.
Jessica Pratt (Friday): The first time I heard Jessica Pratt, it felt a little like discovering some home-recorded album from the ‘70s, shelved for decades until finally being unearthed in an entirely new context. Which is to say her music is timeless and enchanting. But it’s also contemporary—her new album Quiet Signs is one of the most gorgeous sets of music I’ve heard this year.
Mdou Moctar (Friday): I wrote about Tuareg desert blues guitarist Mdou Moctar earlier this year when he paid a visit to San Diego, but it’s worth repeating how much of a dazzling guitarist he is. His influences span from the traditional sounds of his native Niger to the psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix, and the results are electrifying.
Stereolab (Friday): British cult indie band Stereolab recently reunited and began a campaign to reissue all of their albums, and honestly I had nearly forgotten how much I loved this band. They’re an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink indie pop band whose sound represents decades of crate digging: noise pop, krautrock, French pop, bossa nova, jazz, minimalism, The Beach Boys. They’re an eclectic bunch, and I’m thankful that they’ve returned to remind us of that.
Devo (Saturday): So, I’m sure I don’t have to explain Devo, as abstract a concept of a band as they are. (There’s not enough space here to get into the Theory of Devolution—infinite as the Internet may be.) But the legendary Ohio post-punk band has spent over four decades committed to their weirdo bit, and while they’ve denied that this is a “Farewell Tour” as the festival originally had posted, but given that opportunities to see them are fewer and far between, I’d seize this one.
Flying Lotus 3D (Saturday): Flying Lotus recently brought his 3D extravaganza to San Diego, but if you happened to miss his cavalcade of psychedelic hip-hop beats and trippy visuals, then make sure to catch him on day two of the festival.
Wu-Tang Clan (Sunday): I mean, I’m going to be pretty disappointed if anyone reading this has never heard of Wu-Tang Clan. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is one of the most influential hip-hop records of all time, having just turned 25 last year, and the massive rap collective will be performing the album in its entirety.
Khruangbin (Sunday): Texas trio Khruangbin take inspiration from music well outside of their home state—dub, exotica, psychedelia, surf rock, desert blues, and so on and so on. It’s a unique and stunning fusion of sounds, a gorgeous oasis against the desert landscape.
Moses Sumney (Sunday): Moses Sumney first snuck into my periphery with the incredible single “Lonely World” back in 2016, and then in 2017 he followed that up with the outstanding debut album Aromanticism. His music is hard to categorize. It’s pretty, atmospheric, artful. Ostensibly it’s pop, but it’s pop that places stunning songwriting over immediacy. His are songs to get lost in.
The Flaming Lips | Photo: Shutterstock.com